Friday, November 19, 2004

Dazzle Ships In Drydock At Liverpool

by Edward Wadsworth 1919 (detail)

Part of the 'Vorticism' movement (a name suggested by so called "poet's poet', Ezra Pound!) Edward Wadsworth along with Wyndham Lewis used Cubo-Futurism as a basis for developing art that was geometrical to the point of abstraction. So far so good. The roots to this new abstraction can be traced back to young Edward's enlistment in the Navy and his appointment to supervise the camouflaging of ships in Bristol and Liverpool. Good old Bristol. Anyway what was the result? Gigantic crazy warships painted in zig-zags! Fragmented rectangles, trapeziums, broken diagonals and disjointed lines. Just brilliant.

Step forward 60 years or so and we have the dashing Peter Saville who's been asked to come up with the sleeve for OMD's forth LP. He sees this painting by Edward Wadsworth and a plan hatches. 'Dazzle Ships'. Ta da!

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - This Is Helena
What a great LP and to start off the proceedings let's begin with this instrumental number that uses a recorded broadcast by a presenter from Radio Prague. The opening spoken line "music for your tape recorder" should have if it hasn't already been sampled to high heaven. Come on all you acid house producers out there get sampling.... er quite. Anyway it's a snappy little number, kind of jaunty with some great horns in the middle. Put it on your walkman and then go down Tesco's. You'll be dancing in the aisles my friends.

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - The Romance Of The Telescope
Also from the 'Dazzle Ships' LP (this may well be my favourite track?) I just love the opening line:

"See these arms that were broken, how they held you so. Never once did they fail you, they wont let you go."

We'd already been thoroughly spoiled with the 'Architecture and Morality' LP the previous year where all three singles from it went top 5 and turned OMD into Smash Hits cover stars and this is what they follow it up with? It's difficult to imagine a band nowadays taking such a risk as to follow up a multi-million selling LP with a collection of fractured futurist soundscapes, Eastern European radio broadcasts and robot noises. Thankfully they did as artistically it is their greatest LP, sadly on a commercial level it didn't sell. It's lack of success was responsible for their more conservative approach in the future. Next stop Junk Culture. Oh dear. So may I just repeat if I can, the title of this track, and that's 'The Romance Of The Telescope' yes, romance of the telescope. Go on Coldplay I dare you.

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - Mystereality
I was going to post the track 'Red Frame/White Light' which was inspired by a telephone box used by the band outside The Railway Inn on the Wirral and as songs inspired by telephone boxes go, it's pretty marvelous. Instead however I've gone for 'Mystereality' with dead ace horns by Martin Cooper.

The design for the LP (Peter Saville) features a die-cut grid that revealed the inner sleeve inside and the inspiration for it actually came from a metal grid in London's Covent Garden. Metal grids, phoneboxes. Peter Saville once commented that "Talking Heads' Fear Of Music cover is the first definitive high-tech sleeve. The OMD sleeve is the UK version of the same thing. It is a perforated sheet metal pattern cut out of cardboard. It is the moment at which fashion comes in to play on design".

I don't want to sound like an old curmudgeon but sleeve design is now at it's most base level ever and it's become something (if not nothing) of just simple promotion. Nice picture, white font. *sighs*

Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - The New Stone Age
Anyway to round off today's OMD spectacular let's end with what some believe is their finest hour. 'Architecture And Morality' and the opening track 'The New Stone Age'. Always ready with a surprise the young OMD boys decide to start the ball rolling with guitars! So the story goes, the band were hoping people would take the record back to shops convinced it wasn't OMD! I still play this record out at more and more irregular evenings and it always goes down a storm. It's got a slightly new-wave childlike dance beat to it and at volume it's mighty.

Buy - Dazzle Ships
Buy - Architecture And Morality
Visit - Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark
Visit - Peter Saville

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